Sunday, December 3, 2017

Cotton, Flax, Molasses and Slaves by Mimi Benson

In grade school, we learned about trade. This was History class where we memorized dates and places. We learned about wars, as well, not much, just when they were and who fought and where.

The teacher placed arrows on a large map in the back of the classroom. Arrows on the coast of the Carolinas faced east toward England and on these arrows we wrote cotton and flax.

There were arrows that directed ships from Africa, and these arrows were placed on a western coast across the blue ocean on the other side of the world. Spices, we wrote, and slaves.

This was all a matter of getting the right things going the right way, spices coming in, cotton going out. Cotton, flax, tea, molasses and slaves.

How do you teach children that there was so much more to it than that?

We learned the words and thought of the ships with their cargoes and some of us, I suppose, got it right and some wrong.

Then one day, so much later, we learned about the slave trade and the sadness was there as well.

And slaves were no longer words like spices, molasses and tea.

... written in July 2014

Ladder to Paradise by Mimi Benson

I could climb a ladder to Paradise
Trouble is, I might miss a rung, lose my footing, fall to earth.
I might meet a sinister man
with a knife or a gun
who would block my way,
take my money, threaten my life.

Oh, there are other possibilities of danger, failure,
even a chance of rain
on that trip to Paradise
and I could number them,
stack them neatly together,
get them out from time to time
to remind myself
how perilous it is
how fraught with risk it is
to take a chance on life.

... inspired by a quotation from John Bach: “To the timid soul, nothing is possible.”

Friday, May 19, 2017

PERFECT WORLD by Rathbun Elizabeth James


Hello, my name is Arghuthroumundi. I live in a house on a street with trees and lawns and gardens, and I live with Her. She talks out loud all the time and She thinks I don’t understand, but I do. Yesterday She was talking about a Perfect World. Let me tell you about mine.
I have a big, soft, fleecy cushion high on the window sill where I can see into Her garden. She has lots of those big red lilies and some tall spiky blue flowers, but what I like to watch are the little birds out there at the feeder. Actually it tortures me to watch them because my predatory instincts get roused. I follow the birds with my eyes, and my claws begin to go in and out. That’s when I like to jump down and race over to the big chair and scratch with all my strength on the upholstery. She said She didn’t mind. She gave me the chair anyway. Then I eat from a little blue dish in the kitchen, and sometimes there’s milk in the green dish. After that, I sit on the sofa and go to sleep. Sometimes She holds me in her lap and uses a little brush to tease out the fur I shed. I love to be brushed. You see, I’m a little vain about my appearance. I have long golden fur and blue eyes, and She thinks I’m quite handsome. I think so, too.
The most fun I have is when She comes back from shopping. She brings things in brown paper bags, and after emptying them, She puts them on a chair. I love to hide in the bags. I peek out the top to watch, and She pretends not to see me, until it’s time to put the bags away. Then I jump out and run over to my chair and scratch with all my might.
There’s more to my Perfect World, but I don’t have time to write about it all. She’s coming in from the garden now, and I have to sign off. She doesn’t know I can use the computer, and that’s a secret, all part of my Perfect World. Bye now. Love, Argh.

Unabrupt Until the End by Gavin Spanagel

Unabrupt Until the End

As a child I pondered what I’d
Like to become, as far as profession.
The unnumbered choices got whittled down.
I remember ’em one by one.
The other day I was thinking along the same lines
Like an old sun beaten path in a meadow I still recall
Under all the overgrowth the years put on.
Very few things, careers I mean, meant much
To my frugal way of thinking.
The challenge and the art.
The final conclusions and all the disillusioning disappointments
That go into learning just to get a little education out, just a drop.
And what then? What’s it all about? 
How would I mount what I had climbed toward . . .
With what skill would I have to
Turn around a climb back down after achieve what
I’d come to discover as something I’d deemed worth while.
It’s no wonder I settled on being a poet.
Doomed or blessed depending on your prioritous attitudes
To wander off with paper and pen.
Procrastinating all the while about real things.
A little bulb, a plug of pulp and ink,
I use to fill cracks in where others don’t think.
A diamond cutter was my top choice by the age of twelve or thirteen.
Of course growing up just above the poverty level prevented it.
I had to lower my standards just a little
But I still appreciate the uncut block
Of what comes before me in the clear.
I still use and, refrain from using, didactic methods
To get what I want from things I want to stick around,
Shine in the future, keep faith in and admire
From out our clay and concrete mixtures 
Cardboard pay-stubs and oucher-voucher statement sinecures
I repeat the strokes blow after blow,
Like a western breeze sailing toward the sunrisen east
It’s always dawn in eternity once you get down below
The swallowing effect time keeps one under.
Leaving dew to sparkling in the morning.
That’s about all I ever hoped for or wanted.
Marbles that roll toward one another and click 
In the center of circles and lines we’ve drawn.
Playing our most important games with ourselves and one another.
Matches that strike lights in our eyes
Surprise and the non-fiction side.
Being pushed off the edge of figuring it out.
The bouncing board between the lines
When we accept the punch at the end of a joke.
You can practice diamond cutting with glass
But it doesn’t work.
Blackboard drawings of ships look good,
But they, also, don’t always float.
I’ve learned from not getting anywhere
Just evolving my twiddling thumbs and
Reading Truman Capote, stretch fingers toward the sun
Shining through what’s before my eyes
Spelling goes wrong like threads on an old coat
I cut them off with diamond skill when I have to.
Leaving as much loose thread as I can.
Like meat on the bone.
Keeping the calf fat.
Because the tastes of others interests me less than my own
I want to go home with something unheard of that sounds good or
Looks great and doesn’t need to be addressed 
As any one thing, or has to be tucked away. 
In any of our popular, convenient envelopes. Oh no.
I prefer the un-shelfable,
Unrefuted indigenous side of life
“Stick to yo’ ribs” kind of stuff that gets
In between the toes in your mind and 
Pulls us through to
Some beauteous thread of flavor or meaning.
Things that can’t help but
Be chewed on instead of ground down
Grinding ones indentured teeth.
Over and over in repetitive styles already known 
Predigested . . . so to speak.
Nature is only as important
As a smile or a diamond
In a child’s eyes. 
Pouring out like the sun at sunrise . . .
In time, in time, in time, 
I’ll find my path.
Unabrupt until the end.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Western Sunrise by Gavin Spanagel

Western Sunrise

Have you ever watched something being born?
It’s always a lot different being there yourself.
Something comes out of a closet and 
Gets set on a shelf.
Jimi Hendrix walked through his guitar.
Worms put things together inside tents and
Come out moths with butterflies in their stomachs. 
We watch or endure the pain of such fluttering
Leaving more to survive than there were before. 
Balance is never satisfied with itself.
It loops and turns back on its haunches
Rearing our opinions as life goes on
Playing find and seek
Positions our gravity's footwork and nervous roots
Hope to find some standing room, to loam in on.
Breasts that squirt at the sound of a baby’s cry.
We’re often surprised and thankful for the colors
That do shine in our kaleidoscope lives.
It’s happening again you know.
Behind your back, in front of your eyes.
Jumping off our shelves and joining others
Who find a place to dance and live life
Jangle together like change in a pocket
Spending ourselves different ways
Depending on what we’re talking about.
Something’s being born while others bare and claim
Their precarious situations
Trying to accept change in solid things
Purple roses on a yellow trellis
Bloom from razor studded stems with
Brilliantly waxed medium to jade green.
I don’t always tame myself to the atmosphere I’m in.
We put up crisp pastry shells around
One another’s messy situations and make
Pies out for ourselves
Storing our lives up with too many forks and knives.
Spooning in and out of
Hunger’s raw willingness
A belief that we will eat
When  is the can opening  question
We chew on all the time.
I don’t worry about any of my appetites
Until one of them comes along . . .
Like watching something being born . . .
With a wide angled lens that
Rides away like a cowboy
Into its Western Sunrise.

As Iron Sharpens Iron by Barb Walker

As Iron Sharpens Iron*

Three point one miles to go. A 5K. Fourteen miles already logged in the last 12 hours. One and a half hours' sleep in the last 30. Exhaustion and adrenaline battled for my attention as I awaited my teammate's arrival. A quick hug. Passing of the baton. I was off. Immediately I knew I was running too fast. Common sense screamed at me to slow down. Desire to outperform myself pressured me to keep moving.

Feet slapping behind me. A runner, poised to pass. Just behind me now. Pass me and get it over with, I thought. Settling in behind my left shoulder, keeping pace with me. Pass me! my mind shouted. Realization struck: He's staying put. Bright, hot anger erupted through my exhaustion. Already doubting my ability to keep pace for myself it infuriated me to think of pacing another runner. Slow down and he'll pass you. But I didn't slow down. Despite my anger, maybe because of it, his presence drove me. Finally, I spoke aloud. “You'll pace off me till we're nearly finished then you'll blow by me.” His reply: “I'm an ultra runner. I have another leg after this one. There's nothing left in my tank.” That comment changed my reaction to him. Covering the 200 miles of this relay race with 11 teammates was tough. Ultra teams do it with 2 to 6 runners. He was spent too, and he had more miles to run once I'd finished.

Exhausted enough to cry, my body screamed at me to stop. Pushing myself, I covered ground. Fatigue finally outpaced adrenaline. I couldn't keep up the pace. I especially couldn't keep the pace for two people. I told him so, knowing he'd pass me and soon be out of sight. He passed, but rather than pulling ahead settled in just ahead of me, asking if I could keep that pace. So tired. Just slow down, I thought. But I couldn't. Minutes seemed like hours. Slow down. Keep moving. I couldn't take much more. Just as I was ready to walk, a blessed downhill grade. Transition area in sight. Thank God! In the last moments, his energy gave out and I began to overtake him. Suddenly, who crossed the line first didn't matter. Not true. He could cross first. I wouldn't finish before him. If not for his annoying presence behind me those first miles I'd have quit. If not for his sportsmanlike attitude when he took the lead, I could never have finished in the time I did. Keeping pace with him, we crossed the line together.

I don't know his name. I'll never see him again. If I do, I won't recognize him. Strange, how a person whose path crosses yours so briefly can have such an impact. On my own could have done it? With his help I'd run my fastest 5K.

*Proverbs 27:17a

Barb Walker
Copyright 2015 --  Material may be reprinted or distributed only with author permission.

Monday, January 30, 2017

An Observation by Terry Le Feber

I stepped on the clouds
Climbed to the stars
Felt the warmth of the Sun
Looked down
Saw God’s most wonderful creation